Cellphones From Police Auctions Are Found to Contain Major Privacy Risks

Whenever a law enforcement agency gets its hands on any items that were seized during some kind of a raid, the next step is to auction these items off to the highest bidder. Cellphones are a particularly prevalent aspect of these police auctions, with many buying them in bulk in order to make them considerably cheaper than might have been the case otherwise. In spite of the fact that this is the case, these cellphones might do more harm than good.

With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that researchers at the University of Maryland recently revealed just how risky it can be for someone to use cellphones bought at police auctions. The first major disadvantage is that they might contain the personal data of the previous users, since these phones are most often not wiped clean before they are put up for auction.

The team that worked on this report managed to obtain 228 items, and 27% of them were found to contain extremely sensitive data with all things having been considered and taken into account. This included social security numbers, credit card information, banking details, and even images of their identification documents such as passports and driver’s licenses.

Certain phones also contained adult images which were undoubtedly taken under the assumption that no one else would be able to view them. Phones bought at police auctions might have these images in the database, which is risky because of the fact that this is the sort of thing that could potentially end up compromising privacy in one of the most significant ways possible.

In a further twist, the researchers found that these phones have been used to commit fraud and identity theft. They had seen this type of usage previously, and despite the dangers, the data was still present for all to see which could potentially lead to the individual in question being victimized all over again.

Perhaps even more importantly, many of the phones that are currently being sold at police auctions have been confiscated from sex workers. This can be a serious privacy violation for individuals working in this industry, since they can be subject to extortion if messages between them and their clients come to light.

Many users are failing to take proper security measures, such as by using easy to guess pin codes and passwords. Setting up a robust protocol to prevent others from gaining access to your phones is imperative, and law enforcement agencies also have a responsibility to prevent private data from falling into the wrong hands and endangering previous phone owners.

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